Anniversaries & Events in Academia & Elsewhere
A positive myriad of happenings for this day down the years – so, if you are intent on making something of a Name for yourself, be it in Academia or elsewhere, then it would probably be best to choose some other date than this one – but we’re going to concentrate on just two in order to cram them in so, without any further ado, let’s get straight on to the first.
Henry Bolingbroke and, even then, they wouldn’t’ve had the faintest idea what perihelion might be – for the non-Astronomers amongst us, that’s the point in an orbit where a planet or, indeed, comet, comes closest to the Sun, the opposite being aphelion, or the furthest point – plus there was the small matter of Halley himself not being born for another eight centuries. Rather sadly, Halley was never to know that it would end up being named in his honour, mainly because that only happened after his death, by which time he had only ever seen it the once, in 1682, having pegged out before it returned, just as he predicted it would, in 1759.
Brahe’s luck would remain on the dodgy side literally to his dying day, seeing he contracted a bladder or kidney ailment after attending a banquet in Prague, expiring some eleven days later, on 24 October 1601. According to Kepler's first-hand account, Tycho had refused to leave the banquet to relieve himself because it would have been “a breach of etiquette.” Mind you, none of this prevented him from rubbishing Aristotle’s bogus theory about comets and atmospheric disturbances when, in 1577, he proved that comets lack the parallax expected in sub-lunar phenomena and must, therefore, “be further away than the moon.” Which they do, and so they are. He was absolutely right about that. Though perhaps not quite so infallible when it came to the matter of letting the elk spend all evening propping up the bar.
Fast-forwarding past 27 February 1594 and the crowning of Henri IV of France, who’s forever cropping up in these columns for ascending to the throne or being crowned or fighting battles over some wool or whatever else he was always getting up to, we now come to 1812 and Lord Byron. Who was an actual Lord and thus entitled to sit in the Upper House, which is what he did, taking up his seat in March 1809, though he never got around to making his maiden speech until 27 February 1812. He was a Nottinghamshire lad, by the bye, having become 6th Baron Byron of Rochdale in 1798 when he was ten, inheriting at the same time the ancestral home of Newstead Abbey (near Mansfield), so perhaps, as we fondly like to imagine, he was not above letting slip the odd, “Hey up, lad,” as we Northerners are wont to do, but he was certainly and without doubt the most famous one of us ever to have perished of fever in Missolonghi. People up North claimed to have heard he had drowned in chip fat – no, he died in Greece.
“still there are two things wanting to convict and condemn him, and these are, in my opinion, twelve butchers for a jury, and a Jeffreys for a judge!”
On Tuesday, 10 March 1812, his book finally came out, becoming an instant hit and making its author “the most brilliant star in the dazzling world of Regency London” and the first ever real celebrity. By which time his speech had been safely and successfully delivered and so, thanks to the inefficiency of the chosen printer, our man could be sure that it had gone down well on its own merit and not simply because of any sycophantic desire to toady up with the new toast of the town. The good die young, they say. Alas, so do the bad (Byron was what we’d call “a bit of a lad”) and by 1824 he would be dead. He was just past his thirty sixth birthday.
Halley’s Comet: By NASA/W. Liller [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Halley: By SITCK at lb.wikipedia (Transferred from lb.wikipedia) [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
Aristotle: By Copy of Lysippus (Jastrow (2006)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Newton: Sir Godfrey Kneller [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Tycho Brahe: By Eduard Ender († 1883) (http://cache.eb.com/eb/image?id=83677&rendTypeId=4) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Kepler: See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsByron: By Richard Westall (died 1836) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Caroline Lamb: Thomas Lawrence [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Hanging Judge Jeffreys: By Johann Closterman [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons